Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Wendell: Berry's second law of a "money economy"

The following quote is from the Foreword to The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural & Agricultural (Counterpoint, 1981)

For complex reasons, our culture allows "economy" to mean only "money economy." It equates success and even goodness with monetary profit because it lacks any other standard of measurement. . . .

A second law [of such an economy] is that anything diseased is more profitable than anything that is healthy. What is wrong with us contributes more to the "gross national product" than what is right with us. Let us take a healthy marriage for example: a man and wife who produce from their own small farm or homestead or town lot as much as possible of what they eat, and provide on their own as far as possible for other needs; who therefore have work at home for their children; who therefore have "home life" and all that that implies. Such a couple may contribute immeasurably to the health of the nation, even to its solvency. But they are not good for the nation's business, for they consume too little.

If this man and wife were to get divorced, their contribution to the economy would increase spectacularly. Their household, with all its productive motives, means, and energies, would be dissolved, and its members would live by consumption. Their dependence on the industries of food, style, transportation, entertainment, and so on would be greater. So probably would their dependence on the industries of drugs, medicine, psychiatry, counseling, and the like. They would be worth far less to themselves, to each other, to their community, and to the world—but far more to the economy. (Foreword, p. xiii)

No comments: